It also happened that Slane had recently been to
Miami and chanced to meet Don Mucklow, one of the first boat builders to
embrace the new technology of fiberglass. Mucklow had built a 27-foot
runabout, powered by a pair of Corvette engines, that had won the
Miami-Nassau race two years earlier. Slane was intrigued. He was
something of an adventurer himself, an expert pilot who first taught
flying for the Army Air Corps in World War II and later flew The Hump
over Burma from India to China and back again many times.
But, like many, Slane
was skeptical of the new material's strength. The word itself,
fiberglass, seemed to connote weakness. Fibers were limp. Glass was
something that shattered when you knocked it off a table. Mucklow
challenged Slane to try to break the hull. Slane accepted and firewalled
the throttles, heading out of Miami's Government Cut at more than 40 mph
and into a nasty chop. The boat, he quickly learned, could take a lot
more than he could. He was impressed and intrigued.
So, as he sat in the clubhouse and listened to the
moiling winds and saw the local fishing boats rocking timidly in their
slips, he mused aloud that someday soon somebody would build a boat that
could handle Cape Hatteras' weather and that it would be made of
fiberglass. He began to extrapolate on his vision: it would have to be
about 40 feet long to accommodate four to six fishermen. Further, he
mused, it would have to be luxurious enough that a family could use it
for cruising, as well.
crazy," his friends laughed. "Fiberglass is o.k. for a small
runabout, but not for a big boat."
Not only that, Slane
continued, it should be built in High Point to take advantage of the
city's craftsmen nurtured by the furniture industry.
That brought a howl
"You can't build
a 40-foot yacht in High Point. That's 200 miles from the ocean."
Willis Slane, it is said, slammed down his fistful of
playing cards and replied: You wanna bet?"
Six months later,
having immersed himself in fiberglass technology and after consultations
with a bright young West Palm Beach naval architect named Jack Hargrave,
Willis Slane and a coterie of recruits opened the doors on Hatteras
Yachts in what had been a Pontiac dealership on Wrenn Street in High
I'll never forget the respect I had for Don Mucklow, because I worked
for him. One day we were in his office and somebody fired up an engine
out in the plant. Don heard it and grabbed the intercom and shouted.
'Cut that engine off. You're running it dry!' He could tell from the
sound of the exhaust that it didn't have water in it like it was
supposed to. " -Aubrey Ingram